Wahoo KICKR Smart Electric Trainer Review
Today we thought it would be a great time to introduce the Wahoo KICKR Smart Electronic Trainer for cycling. The KICKR is Wahoo Fitness’s top of the line direct drive trainer and has become a huge hit in the competitive cycling community.
For those who are looking for ways to up their cycling prowess, a cycling trainer is a great start. Unlike many gadgets you can purchase for your bike including race wheels, aero helmets and so on, they don’t do you much good when the weather turns nasty and you’re unable to ride outside.
Cycling trainers often referred to as indoor trainers give YOU the ability to have repeatable workout sessions regardless of the weather or time of day. Most top pro cyclists actually prefer to incorporate trainer sessions throughout the week because they can isolate various aspects of their training routine. If you live in an area that doesn’t have hills, smart trainers like the Wahoo KICKR can simulate hills, giving you realistic feedback on what a hilly course profile would actually feel like.
Wahoo KICKR Smart Electric Trainer Review | 2018
This year, (July 2018) Wahoo engineers came out with a brand new version of the Wahoo KICKR 2018 (Wahoo’s 4th generation of the KICKR) that would enable it to work with the new Wahoo KICKR Climb. Wahoo had looked into seeing if they could retrofit a solution with the 1st and 2nd Generation Wahoo KICKRs, but couldn’t find a fix that would work.
NOTE: The KICKR Climb only works with Wahoo KICKR 2017 and KICKR 2018 models.
Wahoo KICKR 2016 Edition Vs 2017 Edition
As with many products they go through a series of updates based on customer input, testing and use. The Wahoo updated the KICKR to a 4th generation called the 2018 Edition Wahoo KICKR POWER TRAINER.
The 4 Generations include
- 2018 EDITION Wahoo KICKR POWER TRAINER
- 2017 EDITION Wahoo KICKR POWER TRAINER
- 2016 EDITION Wahoo KICKR POWER TRAINER
- Wahoo KICKR
Some of the new changes for the 3rd Generation 2017 EDITION Wahoo KICKR POWER TRAINER include
- New Ergonomic Grip Carrying Handle (Makes it much easier to maneuver the KICKR trainer)
- Easier Access Plug-In Location
- Increased Simulated Hills (Grade increased from 15% to 20%)
- Increased Wattage (Maximum wattage increased from 1,500 watts to 2,000 watts)
- 11-speed compatibility
- Quieter unit (Wahoo claims the new unit is 14% quieter over the 1st generation KICKR)
- Compatible with the Wahoo KICKR Climb (1st generation is not compatible)
- Status Indicator Lights (2 LED connectivity lights confirm Bluetooth and ANT+ connectivity)
- Programatic Changes to the electromagnetic braking system to improve response time.
- KICKR now fully supports 12×142 and 12×148 thru axle spacing making it even easier to fit all of your bikes onto the KICKR
Some of the new changes for the 4rd Generation 2018 EDITION Wahoo KICKR POWER TRAINER include
- Ergonomic Grip Carrying Handle Placement Change (Moved to accommodate bikes with disc brakes)
- Quieter unit (Wahoo redesigned the belt system to be much more quiet than any predecessor)
- Additional thru axle compatibility (12×142 and 12×148 thru axle)
- Addition of a heavier flywheel (16 lbs vs 12.5 lbs from the previous version)
- Compatible with the KICKR Headwind
Wahoo KICKR 2017 Unboxing
Here is a quick video I shot opening up the 2017 Wahoo KICKR and showing what you get. For 2018, the KICKR comes in the same basic box, but has the additional features mentioned above.
Wahoo KICKR Traner Accessories
Every 2018 KICKR comes with the following accessories
- Power Cord
- Quick Start Guide
- Wahoo RPM Cadence Sensor
- Thru Axel adapters
- 1.8mm spacer (This is used if you need to swap out the 11 speed cassette for a 9 or 10 speed cassette)
- 11 speed cassette
Wahoo RPM Cadence Sensor
When unboxing the Wahoo KICKR, the trainer comes standard with a Wahoo RPM Cadence Sensor. It’s isn’t a requirement to mount the sensor to use the trainer, but for those that want to record cadence data, you should.
Unlike the Tacx Neo that includes an internal cadence sensor within the trainer itself, Wahoo KICKR users require the addition of a cadence sensor on their bikes to record cadence data. If you plan on using multiple bikes for your training sessions and want the cadence functionality, you will need to purchase additional ones.
Wahoo calls the sensor unit the WAHOO RPM CADENCE SENSOR. The sensor is Bluetooth and ANT+ compatible and weighs just 7 grams. Additional RPM sensors can be purchased separately for $39.99.
The Cadence sensor is a magnetless sensor and uses an accelerometer to calculate RPMs cadence. It should be installed on the inside of the non-drive side crank arm with either the 3M industrial strength double sided tape that is included or with zip ties and the mounting bracket.
Wahoo KICKR Height Adjustment
When you first receive your KICKR the height adjustment nob will be set to one of the lower settings from the factory for shipping purposes.
The trainer height settings include
- RD 24″
- MTB 24″ RD 650c
- RD 700c
- MTB 650B
- MTB 29″
Most people who have typical 700c road bikes will need to change the setting to RD 700c. To change the height simply unscrew the large silver metal nob in it’s current setting, raise the trainer up until the hole next to the RD 700c is available. Screw the nob back in to the height adjustment leg and you are all set.
If the ground isn’t level where you have your trainer, you can adjust the legs up or down using one or both of the trainer leveling nubs.
Trainer Accuracy +/- 2%
The 2018 KICKR is claimed to be +/- 2%, which is the same accuracy that the 2017 model had. The accuracy is based on pushing 100 watts and the trainer will be within that range by 1 or 2 watts.
The trainer doesn’t have a strain gauge any more. Wahoo removed the gauge because they didn’t think it was useful going forward.
Replacing The Wahoo KICKR 11 Speed Cassette
The 2018 KICKR comes standard with a 11 speed cassette, but many road cyclists have older 10 speed or 9 speed bikes. If your bike falls into that category you will need to purchase a 10 speed or 9 speed cassette that matches your bike’s gearing and use the 1.8mm spacer that comes supplied with the 2018 KICKR.
I wrote an article on what I consider some of the best cassette removal tools on the market.
In the video below Wahoo uses a Chainwhip, an Adjustable Wrench and Lockring Tool, but my suggestion would be to buy the tools I talk about above.
KICKR Works With The Most Applications
Wahoo claims the KICKR works with the most cycling apps and that may or may not be true, but one thing is for certain, it does work with the best cycling applications on the market today including
- The Sufferfest
When you purchase a KICKR, Wahoo has setup exclusive deals giving riders free access (between 7 days to 60 days depending on the software company) to various training applications.
Wahoo KICKR | Durability For Professionals
The KICKR is built to withstand years of use due to it’s steel frame construction and build quality. With a total weight of 47 lbs and a flywheel of 12.5 lbs, you know the KICKR is a solid trainer.
The unit maxes out at 2,000 watts and can simulate a 20% grade, which is more than enough for most mortals.
The KICKR comes loaded with a rated value +/-2% accuracy, which puts it almost at the top for cycling trainers. A few trainers like the Tacx Neo have a claimed +/-1% accuracy, but nothing higher.
The KICKR tracks Watts, Speed, Distance, Grade and Cadence (when your included Cadence sensor is attached), which are the major monitoring factors when cycling.
Wahoo KICKR Workouts
Like most smart trainers these days, you have 2 options for working out. You can either let the trainer control the workout or let an application like Zwift control the workout.
The Wahoo KICKR comes standard with a Wahoo’s app that allows you to set resistance in watts. When you change your cadence or gears, the trainer will adjust to the new settings.
Another option and probably the better option is to use software like Zwift or TrainerRoad to control the resistance in real-time. You can setup a workout or ride in a virtual world. Climb a hill in the virtual world of Zwift Island or Watopia and the KICKR will adjust the tension accordingly to simulate a hill climb. As you descend from hill the resistance on the flywheel gets easier and makes for a much more realistic ride.
From my experience riding an indoor trainer for over 5 hours, anything you can do to make the trainer session more amusing is a huge plus.
Wahoo KICKR Specifications
|Wireless Technology||ANT+, ANT+ FE-C, & Bluetooth Smart||ANT+, ANT+ FE-C, & Bluetooth Smart|
|Devices||iOS / Android / PC (Mac and Windows)||iOS / Android / PC (Mac and Windows)|
|Accuracy||+ / – 2%||+ / – 3%|
|Wireless Software Updates||Yes||Yes|
|3rd Party Power Meter||Yes||Yes|
|Metrics||Speed / Distance / Power / Cadence||Speed / Distance / Power|
|Wheel Size||24″, 650c, 700c, 26″, 27.5″, 29″||650c, 700c, 26″, 27.5″, 29″|
|Hub Types||130/135mm QR, 12x142mm, and 12x148mm||130/135mm QR and 12x142mm (with adapter)|
|Drivetrain||11 Speed (compatible with 8, 9 & 10)||N/A (wheel-on design)|
|Front Wheel Block||Not Needed||Included|
|KICKR CLIMB Compatible||Yes||Yes|
|Total Weight||47 lbs||38 lbs|
|Footprint||21″x28″ (54cm x 71cm)||29″x26″ (74cm x 66cm)|
|Warranty||1 year||1 year|
|Electrical Connection||100-240v power cord||100-240v power cord|
|Flywheel Weight||12.5 pounds||10.5 pounds|
|Max Wattage||2000 W||1500 W|
Bottom Line | Wahoo KICKR Smart Electronic Trainer Review | 2018
The 3rd generation 2018 EDITION Wahoo KICKR POWER TRAINER is definitely a must have trainer for anyone who is a serious cyclists and wants to improver their performance. The ability to have a consistent platform in which to train from regardless of the weather outside, can pay big dividends.
The KICKR Direct Drive simulates the road feel better than a Wheel-On trainer and has smoother ride qualities.
At roughly $1,200 retail, Wahoo’s KICKR is reasonably priced compared to other trainers in the same category. Those who are looking to cut the cost of a trainer in half should look at the Wahoo KICKR Snap. By doing so though, you will give up some accuracy and the performance of a Direct Drive trainer.
The only real negative to the KICKR and for that matter any Direct Drive trainer is longer setup time over a Wheel-On trainer because you have to remove the rear wheel.
Check out Wahoo Fitness (https://www.wahoofitness.com) for a wide selection of cycling products.
Wahoo KICKR Smart Electric Trainer Review
Summary The Wahoo KICKR is a fantastic training tool that every cyclist should want to have in their arsenal. The steel frame is extremely rugged and should hold up to a lot of abuse. The KICKR price tag is on the low side of Direct Drive trainers making it much more affordable.